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Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus strike against Napoli

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Manchester City got what they wanted from this game, a victory. That’s nine points out of nine in Group F, which means they have done many of the hard yards of qualification before the clocks have even gone back.

This was a good Napoli team they beat here, too. Top of Serie A, they had scored almost as many goals as City prior to this meeting. The scores were 37 to 34.

But the fact that margin had increased only from three to four goals at the end of this game relayed the fact that Pep Guardiola and his gilded team did not, for once, have everything their own way.

It was, on reflection, a very strange game of football but certainly a good one. For the first 25 minutes City were majestic. Two goals up after only 13 minutes, they threatened to sweep Napoli away on a familiar tide of sky blue energy.

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus scored early and they were familiar goals, created with such deftness and expertise that the actual scoring was the easy bit.

There could have been more, too. David Silva missed a good chance while Kevin De Bruyne hit the bar and Sterling was denied a second by the width of the goal line.

But as time wore on, Napoli regrouped and found territory and confidence, while City lost both. Dries Mertens saw a penalty saved by City goalkeeper Ederson late in the first half but Amadou Diawara did not miss his spot kick when presented with the opportunity with 18 minutes left.

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After that, City were hanging on and had Napoli breached them for a second time nobody could really have said they didn’t deserve it.

So this turned out to be a night when we saw a spell of the new City, breathless and inspiring, but also an unexpected dose of old City as well.

For the neutral — and indeed their Premier League rivals —this was perhaps no bad thing. Nobody wants a perfect football team, after all. Where is the fun in that?

As for the City coach, it merely presents Guardiola with the first hint of a puzzle this season. Everything had looked so easy prior to this. Even a recent afternoon at champions Chelsea had proved straightforward.

But here the Catalan saw his team show a little of the fallibility that so dogged them at times last season.

At half-time De Bruyne, Silva and Fernandinho bickered as they left the field. Later, Fernandinho and Fabian Delph got in a tangle and presented Marek Hamsik with an open goal. Somehow, John Stones blocked.

So it was a night of pluses in terms of the result and some of the early football and a minus for what happened subsequently. Early on, City were as hypnotically good as they had been in demolishing Stoke City here at the weekend. Guardiola fielded the same starting 11 and his players flew from the traps breathing fire.

It’s funny how confidence breeds football such as this. The likes of Sterling — five goals in seven games beforehand — and De Bruyne had an air of utter certainty about their football and it was terrific to watch.

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It took City only nine minutes to score and the pattern was familiar. A crossfield pass from Fernandinho found Leroy Sane and when he released Silva to the byline, the low cross was converted by Sterling after Kyle Walker’s first effort had been blocked. City were swarming all over Napoli and an avalanche of goals seemed likely.

Italian coach Maurizio Sarri had sprayed Guardiola with compliments beforehand, asking that his team suffer a quick death if indeed a kill it was to be.

By the quarter hour, he looked as though he may get his wish. Napoli defender Raul Albiol headed a centre straight to De Bruyne and when the Belgian crossed low the same player could not intercept and Jesus swept home at the far post.

It was easy for City and embarrassing for an Italian team that arrived with such a reputation.

De Bruyne then hit the bar from 25 yards and Sterling was denied by a combination of keeper Pepe Reina and defender Kalidou Koulibaly as the ball briefly came to rest right on the line.

Another goal at that point and this contest was over. But Napoli, driven on by their exasperated coach, slowly began to find themselves and they had already threatened when Walker climbed over Albiol in the 38th minute to concede a penalty.

Centre forward Mertens struck it reasonably well but Ederson was bright enough to delay his dive a fraction and save with his legs.

With their lead in tact at the break, that should have been enough for City. A really top draw European team would have been able to come out and close this game down.

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But City couldn’t do it. They tried to reassert themselves with an increase in tempo but they only grew uncertain at the back. Not surprisingly, Napoli targeted stand-in full back Delph and he had his moments of nervousness.

But the second penalty of the night came from the other side as Faouzi Ghoulam drove hard at Fernandinho and the retreating Brazilian brought him down. Diawara’s kick was placed well and this time Ederson could not save.

Napoli were back in the game and nobody would have been surprised had an equaliser come in the remaining 18 minutes.

So a night that began gleefully and expressively ended with something of a reality check for City. It may not be a bad thing. And, anyway, they won. Again.

 

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Barcelona: Real reason for Messi’s u-turn

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Lionel Messi said on Friday he will stay at Barcelona, insisting he could never go to court against “the club of his life”.But he launched a stinging attack on Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, accusing him of going back on an agreement to let him leave for free at the end of last season.

“The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he didn’t end up keeping his word,” Messi said in an interview with Goal, released on Friday.

“I thought and we were sure that I was free. The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not and now they hold on to the fact that I did not say it before June 10 when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for the league in the middle of this shitty virus and this disease that altered all the dates.”

Messi, 33, added: “And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club… because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the 700-million-euro release clause.

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“This is impossible, and then the other way was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, that gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here.”

Messi had said he wanted to leave the club he joined as a boy after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August.

His lawyers sent a burofax stating his intention to go for free on August 25 but Messi says he had made his feelings clear to Bartomeu many times before.

“I told the club, especially the president, that I wanted to go,” said Messi. “I’ve been telling him all year. I believed it was time to step aside.

‘Everything became difficult’

“I believed that the club needed more young people, new people and I thought my time in Barcelona was over, feeling very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.

“It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new goals, new horizons.

“It wasn’t because of the Champions League result against Bayern, I had been thinking about it for a long time. I told the president and the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not end up keeping his word.”

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Despite his unhappiness, Messi insists he will give his all for Barcelona next season under their new coach Ronald Koeman, with his current contract due to expire in June next year.

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Messi set to quit Barcelona

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Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he wants to “unilaterally” terminate his contract with the Spanish giants, a club source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barca a fax in which they announced Messi’s desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause.

However, the club maintains the clause expired in June and he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.

“In principial, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.

“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros.”

According to Spanish media, Messi met with new Barca coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself “more out than in” the club.

“The end of the glorious era of Leo Messi at Barcelona seems to be close. After the arrival of Ronald Koeman, what looks like the exit of his friend Luis Suarez and a difficult and turbulent end to the season, Messi told Barcelona in a fax of his intention to leave the club,” said Once radio station.

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Barcelona suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon earlier this month, resulting in the dismissal of coach Quique Setien after barely six months in charge.

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Oyo govt. to spend N5.5bn on Lekan Salami sports complex’s facilities’ upgrade

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Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Thursday disclosed that the contract for the remodeling of the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Ibadan was awarded to Messrs Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Ltd, at a total cost of Five Billion, Five Hundred and Eighty Million, One Thousand, One Hundred and Fifty-One Naira, Sixty-Two Kobo (₦5,580,001,151:62k).

The governor stated that the Complex will be upgraded to a world class standard.

 

He also informed that the project will be funded through the Alternate Project Funding Approach (APFA), which entails that the contractor will fund the project, while the state will repay the contractor over a period of 29 months.

 

The governor, who stated this at the main bowl of the stadium, while flagging off the project, asdured that his administration will continue to walk its talk, matching policies with actions.

 

Contained in a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, Governor Makinde stressed, “the contractors, Messrs Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Ltd, have given us the assurance that the project will be completed in 18 months. By God’s grace, in the next 12 months, coronavirus would have left us, and we will have the opportunity to sit here, in this stadium, fully remodelled and watch my team, the 3SC beat their opponents, live! So Messrs Peculiar Ultimate Concerns, 12 months is 12 months. No delays and you have to do a quality job that the people of Oyo State will be proud of.

 

“This is another step in the right direction, positioning Oyo State to attract investments. I hear some people are already saying we should slow down but I am here to tell them that this is not the time to even think of slowing down. Our administration is here to grow Oyo State and to make sure everyone in our beloved state feels the real dividends of democracy.

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“When the history of this place was being traced just now, they flagged off this facility 44 years ago. It was commissioned 32 years ago; and I came here once to watch a 3SC game and, at half time, I went to the changing room to talk to and encourage the players but I could not believe what I saw: players sat on the bare floor. And I asked myself, is this where we want to mould world-beating athletes? So, I said ‘no’. I felt for both the players and the crew.

 

“After that, I decided to, on my own, visit this place and looked at all of the facilities that we have in here. They were all in a state of dilapidation”, he lamented.

 

The governor who declared that the remodelling project was another step in the direction of positioning the state to attract greater investments, said his administration would not be deterred by criticisms and that it would ensure that every resident of the state feels the real dividends of democracy.

 

He added that for the state to attract the right investments, it must raise its game in terms of infrastructure and matching what obtains in other places, saying that this is the path his administration has been toeing, which is responsible for its attention to fix roads, install street lights and invest heavily on infrastructure and security.

 

“Oyo State has had a rich sporting history. Back in 1963, the first World Boxing title fight in Africa was held here in Oyo State. We were able to host that fight and benefit from all the tourism revenue because we had the facilities to do so. And so, we are remodelling this sports complex now, so we can reap the benefits in  Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. If there was a call for cities to host a national sporting event today, can Oyo State boast of having the facilities? The answer is no.

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“So, in Oyo State, we cannot attract investors without the right infrastructure. If we are telling people to leave wherever they are and come here, we should be able to give them what they are benefiting where they are or even more.

 

 

“If we keep saying Oyo State is ready for business, without the right infrastructure in place, they will tell us they like our policies, but they want to see better facilities. So, we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that whenever investors come calling, we are ready to receive them and make them stay. And that means we must match our policies with action.

 

“We have already told them there will be no multiple taxation and that we will not wake up and impose random taxes on them. They can see that this is true. We have also promised that they will not spend hours in traffic, we are keeping our promise by investing in road construction and rehabilitation. We are putting street lights all over the place. We also have to match the tourism and recreational facilities that they have in other places.

 

 

“If the government can provide facilities that are comparable to those those in any part of the world, then we can be sure that all our talents and youths will have somewhere to come to. And we will discover more talents and we will have more record setters coming out of Oyo State. And this is why we are here.”

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Earlier, the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mr. Seun Fakorede, said the remodelling is essential for the growth and survival of Sports and the engagement of youth productively.

He noted that the remodelling will attract international focus and change the economic fortune of the state, through hosting of national and international sports tournaments.

 

In his remarks, the managing Director of Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Limited, Mr. Adeleke Olanrewaju, said that the benefit which Lekan Salami will bring to the state will be unquantifiable through talent development and others, adding that the remodeling of the stadium will also boost the IGR, of the state.

 

“In the present day, stadium facilities can generate incomes; for example, the hosting of a national sports festival can bring in as much as 7billion Naira, the hosting of a national cup will also bring in as much as 10 billion Naira. Some of these funds go directly into the government purse while a larger percentage goes into the local economy to stimulate it.”

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